Drive the Great South West Edge

    Drive the GSWE


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    11 day Great South West Edge Touring Route.

    Drive one of Australia’s most fascinating landscapes between Perth and Esperance, known as the Great South West Edge. Spring is a spectacular time of year as the landscapes bloom with wildflowers and hunting for dainty orchids gives hiking a whole new purpose. Learn more about wildflowers in the south west and where to find them. Be sure to stop into visitor centres through your trip for up-to-date sightings of the most spectacular displays which constantly change.

    This unique region comprises many contrasting landscapes; from ancient mountain ranges and rugged granite headlands along the south coast, to the towering karri trees and hills in the Southern Forests and Valleys and a network of spectacular caves further to the west. The regions’ best attractions are dotted in and around pretty country towns and vast national parks harbouring some of the world’s most unique flora and fauna. Pictured below: Bluff Knoll in the Stirling Range by Timothy Sargent Photography.

    This attraction itinerary gives visitors the option of covering the route in an action packed 11 days. Optional detour routes are included in the the printable pdf version which can extend your trip to accommodate individual travel times. If time is restricted, join a tour in the area or plan to incorporate air travel, with airports in Albany and Esperance to reduce travel time.

    Bluff Knoll and the Stirling Range by Timothy Sargent Photography

    Day 1 Perth to Bunbury

    Get an early start from Perth and take a scenic drive through Harvey and Dardanup with its picturesque rolling hills of farmland and orchards. Be sure to stop and see the colourful gnomes at Gnomesville in the Ferguson ValleyIn Bunbury, you can meet the friendly dolphins who frequent the shores in front of the Dolphin Discovery Centre. The wild, bottlenose dolphins come in close to shore daily (seasonal) to interact with humans. Eco-cruises and swim tours are also available. Out of Bunbury you can also visit Collie and Wellington National Park. Image: Dolphins in Bunbury by Matt Blakers Photo.

    By Matt Blakers Photo in Bunbury - Dolphins

    Day 2 - 3 The Margaret River Region

    Continue south to Busselton and walk on or dive under one of the longest wooden jetties in the world or step down in the underwater observatory surrounded by an ocean full of vibrant coral and fish. Base yourself in the Margaret River Region for a few days of exploring. As you pass through Dunsborough and Yallingupuncover the spectacular formations of Ngigli Cave or discover the South West’s history on an Aboriginal culture tour.

    Take a drive out to the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse for sunset, past the pristine beaches of Bunker Bay and Meelup. Join a tour with a local in the know or spend a day exploring the region’s coastal treasures and gourmet experiences.  Hikers and bushwalkers will enjoy the Cape to Cape track – a 140 kilometre dedicated walk trail between the region's capesIt is the perfect location for wildflowers in springBe sure to allow yourself the time to drive through the beautiful Boranup Karri Forest, explore one of the many underground show caves, and visit Augusta, where two oceans meet and the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse stands, Australia’s tallest mainland lighthouse. Between June and December, migrating whales pass close to shore between the capes. Image below: Indjidup Beach, Yallingup with Walk into Luxury, by Elements Margaret River.

    Indjidup Beach with Walk into Luxury.

    Day 6 Denmark to Albany

    Head to Albany and spend the morning at Discovery Bay, an old whaling station and now an interpretive centre and flora/fauna park. From Albany, take a drive and view the dramatic, make sure you stop at the new cantilevered lookout over the impressive twenty five metre ‘Gap’ in Torndirrup National Park, carved over time by the crashing waves of the Southern Ocean. Come and visit the brand new and extraordinary National ANZAC CentreIf time is limited and you need to return to Perth, you can head north to Kojonup’s Kodja Place.

    The Gap and Natural Bridge by Parks and Wildlife WA

    Day 5 Pemberton to Denmark

    Travel to Walpole and be sure to visit the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk (pictured below), a 40m high walkway through the forest’s canopy and home to old majestic tingle forests, found nowhere else in the world. If you prefer to be out on the water, enjoy a cruise through Nornalup National Park.

    In Denmark make sure you travel to the southern most point of Western Australia, Cape West Howe National Park. Take time to drive to other spectacular ocean side locations such as Greens Pool and Elephant Rocks in William Bay National Park with its sandy beaches and giant granite boulders.

    Hikers are well catered for on the Bibbulmun Track which commences in Perth and passes through Pemberton via Walpole and Denmark before ending in Albany. At 1,000km it is WA’s longest walking trail but can be experienced in shorter sections as guided or self-guided itineraries. Or cycle a section of the world’s longest off-road cycling trail, the Munda Biddi TrailIn Denmark, enjoy a gourmet trail on the Scotsdale and Mt Shadforth tourist drives, stopping off and enjoying the many wineries and local produce on offer.

    Tree Top Walk by Nic Duncan

    Day 4 Margaret River to Pemberton

    Travel from the Margaret River Region to the old timber town of Nannup. From there continue on to Pemberton where you can experience the beauty of the different terrains on offer: from dense forests and water cascades to the massive land locked Yeagerup Dunes, pictured below by Wendy Eiby.

    Take a cruise on the Donnelly River and experience the stunning D’Entrecasteaux National Park from the water. D’entrecasteaux National Park is only accessible via 4WD, with the exception of a sealed road to Windy Harbour near Northcliffe. Windy Harbour is a quaint seaside village, perfect for fishing and 4WD holidays. On the way back to Pemberton, you’ll pass through the impressive Mt Chudalup, which offers fantastic views from the top and understory – an ‘art in nature’ walk trail experience through the forest in Northcliffe.

    Yeagarup Dunes by Wendy Eiby

    Day 7 Albany to Hopetoun

    Today will be one of the longest drives along this route so please make sure you set off early. Depart Albany via one of the oldest ranges in the Porongurup National Park and climb the Granite Sky Walk. Rising 670m, this suspended walkway gives an incredible view of the landscape allowing you to experience one of the most bio diverse places in the south west. The Porongurup Range is an incredible area to discover the biodiversity of the region with 750 native plant species within a relatively small area of 2,600 hectares. Here you can also choose to include an additional detour to Mt Barker just 15 minutes away. A town of country pubs, wineries and art.

    Continue your journey along Chester Pass Road, and take in the Stirling Range National Park, home to Western Australia’s second highest peak, Bluff Knoll (1,095m) and renowned for its unusual cloud formations. The Stirling Range is a hot spot for wildflower enthusiasts, bird watchers and hikers.

    In Ongerup, discover the conservation efforts for the shy native bush turkey at the Yongergnow Malleefowl Centre before heading to Ravensthorpe and the pretty coastal town of Hopetoun, located near one of the most biodiverse places in Western Australia, the Fitzgerald River National Park.

    Day 8 Hopetoun to Esperance

    Visit the UNESCO recognised, international biosphere of the spectacular Fitzgerald River National Park. It is one of the largest and most botanically significant national parks in Australia with over 1,800 beautiful and unique species of plants, 22 species of mammal, 200 bird species as well as 41 species of reptiles. The park has had major improvements with new scenic coastal roads, whale lookout and interpretive sites. Travel east to the stunning coastal town of Esperance perhaps detouring to the Stokes Inlet National Park. Esperance is located on the Recherche Archipelago with its snow white beaches and turquoise blue waters. Spend the afternoon exploring Great Ocean Drive along the western beaches or call into some of the local artisan galleries and attractions.

    Aistralia's Golden Outback

    Day 9 Esperance

    Set aside a full day to explore some of the attractions of Esperance like a cruise into the Recherche Archipelago to view Australian and New Zealand fur seals, sea eagles and other wildlife. Esperance is also famous for Lake Hillier, a pink lake on Middle Island off the coast of Cape Arid. Take a drive to Cape Le Grand National Park only 40 minutes on sealed roads from town. On the way see the unique Esperance Stonehenge, a full size replica of UK’s original or perhaps consider taking an escorted 4WD tour with Eco Discovery Tours along the beaches to Cape Le Grand National Park.

    Lucky Bay boasts the whitest beach sand in Australia with kangaroos on the beach. Returning to Esperance call in to the Esperance Museum with its Skylab exhibit, pop in and see some local art and craft outlets and also wander the Museum Park Period Village and beautiful landscaped foreshore with its whale tail sculpture. 

    Days 10 - 11 Return to Perth Options.

    Departing from Esperance you have two options for a return back to Perth. 

    Option 1 Esperance/Wave Rock/Perth - The shortest route to Perth from Esperance is via Hyden (Wave Rock). This route is some 700kms but can be broken up into a two day drive. Day 10 Travel Esperance to Hyden. Hyden is famous for Wave Rock, a fascinating 3 billion year old rock formation in the shape of a wave. The area also boasts historic Aboriginal hand print art in Mulka’s Cave. Day 11 Drive from Hyden back to Perth perhaps making a slight detour along the Tin Horse Highway to Kulin before driving through Corrigin and historic York before entering Perth city.

    Option 2 Esperance/Kalgoorlie/PerthDay 10 Depart Esperance via Norseman and Coolgardie to the famous gold mining town of Kalgoorlie. This route takes you north from farmlands near Esperance into the red earth outback country of the historic Goldfields. Norseman, Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie are all part of gold rush pioneering history with the area producing 60% of Australia’s gold. That afternoon visit the Super Pit or drive 1.5 hours north of Kalgoorlie to take in the Antony Gormley Inside Australia exhibit, 51 sculptures set in a 10km2 salt lake at Lake Ballard. Day 11 Set off early this morning to drive 600kms from Kalgoorlie back to Perth. The countryside changes from red earth to golden Wheatbelt farmlands. Along the way stop at several towns, view the museum at Southern Cross, take a slight detour off the highway to Westonia, just before you arrive in Merredin. From here call in to Cunderdin Museum with its Meckering Earthquake simulator then finally wander the historic streets of York before heading into Perth.

    Lake Ballard Sculpture and Wave Rock

    Driving distances and maps provided are intended as a guide only and it’s highly recommended detailed maps be obtained before you set out. As you drive into a new town, be sure make a Visitor Centre or Community Resource Centre your first stop for local recommendations and up to date insights on wildflower sightings in spring, road closures, markets, events and accommodation and tour bookings.

    You may also be interested in...

    Learn more about the South West
    Learn more about the Golden Outback
    Visit the WA Parks and Wildlife Website
    More South West Itineraries

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